Hess Drilling on Plot of Land Next to Warnock Cemetery

After fracking prolific Utica Shale wells across eastern Ohio, Hess Corp. is drilling another one right in the heart of Belmont County along Ohio 149 – directly adjacent to Warnock Cemetery on property in the name of Smith.

“They said there should be no problems,” said Daniel Walls, one of the cemetery’s trustees, regarding a conversation with Hess officials. “They said it should be 7,000-8,000 feet deep, which wouldn’t affect anything at the graveyard.”

Mark Bruce is a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates the spacing and permitting for oil and gas drilling around the state. He said there are no specific requirements regarding how far a well should be drilled from a cemetery.

Companies drill horizontal natural gas wells thousands of feet into the earth, but having a well so close to a cemetery could cause some concerns for visitors. While fracking the Lude well near the Jamboree In The Hills site earlier this year, Hess used a bright orange flare to burn off some of the excess gas.

According to the National Geophysical Data Center, flaring is a widely used practice for the disposal of natural gas in areas where there is no infrastructure to make use of the gas. These officials believe the practice unloads unnecessary amounts of carbon emissions into the air.

Those living near drilling sites have also complained of noise loud noise, heavy truck traffic and carcinogenic benzene emissions.

The area in which Hess is drilling near the cemetery saw surface coal mining in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It is pretty much an unknown at this point. We just take them on their word and their reputation, which seems pretty good,” Walls said of Hess.

New York City-based Hess initially entered the eastern Ohio Utica Shale play in 2011 by paying $750 million to acquire rights from Marquette Exploration. Since then, Hess, Gulfport Energy, Antero Resources, Rice Energy, Chesapeake Energy, XTO Energy and other companies have continued signing leasing contracts throughout the area, some of which have offered mineral owners as much as $7,500 per acre.

Hess maintains drilling operations in Iraq, off the coast of Norway and off the coast of Malaysia, in addition to the U.S. The company posted income of $420 million from July through September.

Walls said the cemetery leased its small 2.2-acre plot to Hess, noting the revenue it would receive from a signing bonus and possible production royalties could help pay for maintenance at the graveyard.

The Hess Capstone 2H9 well, located near Flushing in the area of Ohio 331 and Dutton Drive, produced 2,242 barrels of oil equivalent per day during the first three months of this year. This means the well is yielding an amount of energy equal to what would come from 2,242 barrels of oil, although the well may not be producing a substance that is chemically considered to be oil.

From April through June, the Hess Richland B well near the Jamboree In The Hills site produced 2,985 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Generally, throughout the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, the farther east one drills for gas, the more likely this gas is to be of the dry type. As drillers move their operations toward the west, they are more likely to find the liquids-rich wet gas – which, in addition to the methane gas, contains valuable ethane, propane and butane.